National Security Strategy Must Reflect AMERICAN Interests

by admin on September 4, 2013


A National Security Strategy is, by nature, a selfish document.

If there is a place for timorous national security bureaucrats to embrace their inner Theodore Roosevelt, the National Security Strategy is it. We compose a national strategy because this is where we, as Americans, explain how we intend to secure the survival of the United States.

But, somehow, over the course of 25 years, our national security taste-makers seem to have lost the ability to muster–or even articulate–the self-interest required to craft good strategy.  Look. If we, as a Nation, are too timorous to enumerate a few fundamental American-centered interests, then why even bother writing a national security strategy in the first place?

Compare for yourself. The five “Enduring National Interests” from the 1988 National Security Strategy are these:

  1. The survival of the United States as a free and independent nation, with its fundamental values intact and its institutions and people secure.
  2. A healthy and growing U.S. economy to provide opportunity for individual prosperity and a resource base for our national endeavors.
  3. A stable and secure world, free of major threats to U.S. interests.
  4. The growth of human freedom, democratic institutions, and free market economies throughout the world, linked by a fair and open international trading system.
  5. Healthy and vigorous alliance relationships.

This is all clear, robust stuff.  “The survival of the United States as a free and independent nation, with its fundamental values intact” speaks for itself.  Everything else ties back to “national endeavors or “U.S. Interests”–or engage in the world in way that supports perpetuation of our fundamental national values.

The list of “Enduring National Interests” in the 2010 National Security Strategy is far gentler, calling for:

  1. The security of the United States, its citizens, and U.S. allies and partners;
  2. A strong, innovative, and growing U.S. economy in an open international economic system that promotes opportunity and prosperity;
  3. Respect for universal values at home and around the world; and
  4. An international order advanced by U.S. leadership that promotes peace, security, and opportunity through stronger cooperation to meet global challenges.

At best, this is an exercise in multilateral overreach. It is a far too generous basis for strategy, and far too magnanimous for a nation of limited means.

The terminology is also imprecise. Why is security of a “partner” equal to the security we offer to Allies and to our own American citizens?  What does “security” mean?  Whose “opportunity and prosperity” is the international economic system supporting?  And what are “universal values”, anyway?  You get the idea.

Multilateral solutions are fine, provided they evolve from solid, well-articulated national interests.  I may not be a big Reagan fan, but, at least with the 1988 strategy, his list of “Enduring National Interests” are clear, and–even better–clearly national.

Does it all matter?  Yes. A National Security Strategy is more than an just an exercise in semantics.  And while the overall impact of these “grand” strategic documents is debatable, it is undeniable that the Reagan-era Executive Branch pursued their Administration’s list of “Enduring National Interests”, which, in turn, inspired the nation to support a very different fleet than the one we anticipate fielding today.

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